2017 Southern Vermont Dance Festival: Festival has something for everyone

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BRATTLEBORO — The Southern Vermont Dance Festival's 2017 performance schedule features six formal and informal concerts and dozens of community events.

The performances show the work of 35 choreographers in three gala shows, an informal concert, the story of Harriet Tubman, a closing concert, a social justice promenade in the community, a mini-film festival and other community events.

The performances will show work by emerging artists and well-established professionals and will show several different genres of dance including modern, ballet, contemporary, jazz, belly, classical Indian, African, tap and so much more. Each of the artists showing their work was selected out of a large pool of choreographers who submitted their work to the festival for consideration. The work shown throughout the festival shows a high standard of artistry.

This year's theme is diversity and social justice through art. It is evident in the works chosen. The group of selected works shows a wide variety of movement styles and aesthetics and each performance is very different in it's style and approach.

The festival opens on July 13 with its Opening Gala Performance at 430 p.m. at the Latchis Theatre at 50 Main St. This performance is slated to show both serious and upbeat works. It is the perfect way to open the four-day festival. The choreography includes pieces by 10 choreographers.

The show opens with a work by Alison Cook-Beatty that shows the precision and creativity of contemporary ballet. Cook-Beatty has had her work commissioned by Ballet Next, Joffrey Ballet School, NYU and more. The afternoon performance will also include Subject: Matter, a new and upcoming tap company from Boston, Mass., led by Ian Berg of Chicago. There grounded and fun tap works are reminiscent of some of the tap greats of our time.

Returning to the stage this year is Julie Marie Muskat, Minnesota choreographer and published author and violinist brings her artistry back to the gala stage. Muskat has taught, performed and shown work throughout the country as well as in Israel and Italy.

Also returning is Bedford Dance Ensemble, a dynamic large group of dancers that brings alive contemporary dance for the audience.

Shilpa Darivemula will bring to the stage classical Indian dance from the perspective of a surgeon. Her work is influenced by her career and Thursday's performance, "White Coat," will be a depiction of her experience.

Other new artists this year include — Accumulation Dance from Boston, Nozama Dance Collective, also a Boston-based company, Angela Cole and Ellen Oliver from Rhode Island and Zoe Warshaw from Warfields, based out of New York City. Finally, Sonia Plumb, a Vermont-grown artist now living in Hartford, Conn., who recently received a Community Legacy Project Award, will provide an eclectic upbeat late afternoon of dance. This performance is followed by an opening reception at 630 p.m. Tickets to this performance are $18 students/$22 general in advance and $24students/$28 general at the door.

The Opening Gala is followed by the festival's first-ever community potluck and performance on July 14 at 6:30 p.m. in partnership with Edible Brattleboro. Community members and festival attendees far and wide are invited to bring a dish to share and enjoy food, conversation and art together. SVDF will present live music and performance and together with Edible Brattleboro is coordinating a gigantic potluck. Both organizations are emphasizing that even if you don't have a dish to share, you are encouraged to join. This is a meal for the community, by the community. If you are interested in helping with set up or organizing send an email to info@southernvermontdancefestival.com.

Friday, July 14, offers an informal performance at The Stone Church at 1:30 p.m. on 210 Main St. This performance is of an informal nature, set in the daytime and has the highlight of natural light coming in through the stained glass. Artists in this concert include Audrey Zefros, who has danced in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. In addition, there will be works shown by Kristen Duffy Young, Lisa Costello, Nicole Zizzi and Brenna Banister all from New York. This performance will feature work by returning artist Blair Hotchner, who is also teaching classes throughout the festival. This performance is unique in its nature and allows for a brief and pleasant brush with stained glass, beautiful art and a lovely group of dancers. Tickets to this performance are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

Friday evening, SVDF hosts its second concert of the season at the Latchis Theatre on July 14 at 8 p.m. This performance brings to the stage a crew of dancers that have performed at the festival in years passed as well as new choreographers, both emerging and well-established professionals and local favorites.

The Wonder Twins, who have formerly toured with Bobby Brown and have danced on the stage with many of the music greats as well as touring their own work, "To Hip Hop With Love," will perform on the Latchis stage. This evening performance will also feature Billbob Brown's work, "El Muro Hermoso (the Beautiful Wall)." El Muro Hermoso uses photos, maps, images, sounds, and movements from the existing Mexico-U.S. border wall, to convey the complexity of this issue.

Brown comes to from Arizona, formerly from Hong Kong as Chairman of the Hong Kong Performing Arts Academy and as Chairman of the Dance Department at UMass Amherst.

Also featured in the Friday Gala is a work by Desert Dance Theater, "We're on the Move" (Excerpt from "Free at last: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.").

The Friday Gala also features local artists, Toni Nagy and Cyndal Ellis, with a work done to live music, Sophia Marx, with a stunning on pointe work that is beautiful and passionate and festival director Brenda Lynn Siegel's own work, that explores concepts of resisting and simultaneously being knocked down by the news events of today.

Once again coming from New York City is Alison Cook Beatty Dance and JP Dance Group, both bringing stunning works that will grab the audience with breath and intrigue. Work will also be shown by Maurice Fraga, coming from Virginia. His work takes us on a raw emotional journey between two women. The Friday Gala shows a variety of modern and contemporary dance styles with interesting social themes as well as beautiful movement styles. Tickets to this performance are $18 students/$24 general in advance and $24students/$28 general at the door.

On July 15 at 1 p.m. there will be a performance of "Sister Moses: The Story of Harriet Tubman (an excerpt)," by donation at the Latchis Theatre. The program follows Tubman's life as a young slave on a southern plantation, her attempts to escape slavery, her work on the Underground Railroad, and her contributions to the abolitionist movement. Slave songs from that period are featured for their significance as a means of passing information among the slaves. Hidden in the lyrics were vital escape details. Sister Moses brings history to life through music, dance and drama. Sister Moses is entertaining, educational and truly inspirational.

The Saturday evening gala brings the Southern Vermont Dance Festival to Scott Farm for a unique promenade performance and midsummer night's picnic on July 15, with a picnic at 5:30 p.m. that includes performance tours at 7:30 and 8 p.m.; for those who prefer performance tours only, they are available from 8:30 to 10 p.m. (the 8:30 p.m. time slot is sold out, so, purchase tickets to this event soon).

This outdoor Gala was the brainchild of former festival production manager, Troy David Mercier, and was experimentally produced first in the 2016 festival at Naulakha. Dances normally shown on a proscenium stage will be shown outdoors through a walking tour at Scott Farm and to the Stone Trust. People who include the picnic get a lovely picnic dinner offered with the help of Monkey Moon. This includes a vegetarian meal and delicious dessert. After enjoying the picnic, the audience will be taken on performance tours throughout. A complete list of artists can be seen on the website. The event will feature solo as well as group works in a beautiful Vermont setting. The Saturday Gala will bring to the stage a magical set of choreography that shows off the raw beauty of dance and movement. Tickets to this show are $25 for the promenade performance alone and $45 for dinner and performance. Advanced purchase is required to attend this performance.

The closing concert at the Stone Church, 210 Main St.. at 6 p.m., on July 16, shows a wonderful mix of what choreographers presented at the festival. This is a show in which the choreographers present a body of work that they are excited to show and bring to the stage. The festival will close with several works by Desert Dance Theater, works by Bedford Dance Ensemble and work by Bridget Struthers, currently of New York City, though raised in Brattleboro. Tickets to this show are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

In addition to the seven performances listed above, the festival offers four full days of free community events. The events begin with live music, July 13, at 10 a.m. in the River Garden and continues with live music, performances, workshops and more. There is everything from a Social Justice Resistance tour on July 15 to hooping workshops on several days and everything in between.

In addition, Vermont Performance Lab scheduled its Open Lab to coincide with SVDF's weekend of dance and will also be shown as two free events during the festival. All of the community events are completely free and open to the public and they begin at 9 a.m. each day and go throughout the days. Check out a complete list under community events under "Festival Schedule" on the website.

With the performances the festival offers 113 classes and lectures in every genre and levels ranging from very beginner to professional level technique and academic classes. In addition the festival offers a wide variety of lectures and unique movement styles.

To purchase your tickets, volunteer or find out how to sponsor the festival go to www.southernvermontdancefestival.com

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